People v. Fichtner Case Brief

Summary of People v. Fichtner, New York Supreme Court (1952)

Defendant: Fichtner and McGuinness; the defendants were manager and assistant manager of a supermarket. They caught a person stealing 53 cents coffee jar. They told the person to sign a paper stating that he has stolen merchandise in the past and they also told this person to give them $75 or they will call the police, which will ruin this person’s reputation. The person agreed to sign a paper stating that he has stolen $50 worth of property from the store in the previous months and he also gave the defendants $25 and promised that he will pay the rest at a rate of $5 every week. The defendants put the money right in the cash register and they did not keep it for themselves. The defendants were charged and convicted for extortion. Now the defendant appeal and argue that the person admitted that he had stolen goods from the store and he had given them the money voluntarily. The defendants also argue that since they put the money right in the cash register, it shows their good faith.

Issue: Did the defendants’ actions constitute extortion?

Holding: Yes

Key Facts: Extortion according to Section 851 of Penal Law is defined as creating fear in a person’s mind throught written or oral threat “2. To accuse him, or any relative of his or any member of his family, of any crime; or, 3. To expose, or impute to him, or any of them, any…disgrace…”

Legal Reasoning: The court ruled that what the defendants did was extortion. The court stated that “it makes no difference whether the debtor stole any goods, nor how much he stole…” The court said that the law does not allow the collection of any debt through creating a fear in the mind of the debtor of accusation of a crime. The court further ruled that the good faith of the defendants did not make any difference and since their actions met the requirements of extortion, the conviction was affirmed.

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